Christmas Customs From Around The World
In the United States, we all have a generally common idea about celebrating December 25 each year. The popular concept of Christmas in the US actually began as late as 1933 when the Coca-Cola company put out a calendar depicting a plump man in a red suit and a full, white beard they called Santa Claus. Other commercialization of Christmas soon began so that it eventually formed the image it has today. For Christians, the holiday retains its deeper, religious roots. As we know the holiday today, it began in the 1860s during the reign of Queen Victoria. The brightly decorated Christmas tree was brought by Victoria’ consort, Prince Albert, after their marriage. Today, some people plan their travel around Christmas customs around the world.
Scandinavian yuletide celebrations are generally not about Saint Nicolas, the 4th Century bishop of Myra famed for giving gifts which over centuries became commercialized and morphed into Santa Claus. The emphasis there is around Saint Lucia (colloquially known as St. Lucy). Her celebration begins on December 13 in a longer period known as “little Yule.” Her dress is white with a red sash and she wears a crown made of twigs. The custom of burning the “Yule” log comes from Norway.
In England, Santa Claus is more commonly known as Father Christmas. Linked commercially with the American version of Santa Claus, Father Christmas may be shown as a man in a long, red coat trimmed with white fur to match his full, white beard. Like the Swedish version of St. Lucy, Father Christmas may also appear in a dazzling white floor-length robe.
Germany gave the world the Christmas tree. As already mentioned, the gaily decorated tree was a gift to Queen Victoria after her marriage to Prince Albert. German immigrants in the USA brought the tree trimming practice to America. Soon greeting cards began to appear with Christmas themes. When an American publication featured a Christmas tree on its cover in 1948, the custom swept over the country.
Mexico gave us the poinsettia, named for Ambassador Poinsett who introduced the bright red and green flower north of the border. By the turn of the 20th Century, the poinsettia became a universal symbol of the Christmas season. Incidentally, a late December trip to Chaing Mai, Thailand, offers a view of an entire mountain covered with red poinsettias. It’s a sight worth traveling to see.
In Central and South America, Christmas is more religious in nature often featuring live reenactments of the Nativity, a tradition began by St. Francis of Assisi, in 1224. Realizing that the general population could neither read nor write during that time, it is plain that St. Francis intended the Nativity scenes as a kind of object lesson for the people. In Mexico the Christmas greeting, feliz navidad, retains the religious significance of the season.
It is well worth the time to search different Christmas customs on the internet. Everything is not snow and reindeer in Christmas celebrations, however. In Australia in the Southern hemisphere, December is summertime. Families gather and very often enjoy a cook-out to celebrate the day. Sounds like fun, so “throw another shrimp on the barby, mate.”